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Jiu-Hwa Lo Upshur

For Jiu-Hwa Lo Upshur, graduate education is part of a University of Michigan family legacy. She and her mother were both Barbour Scholars at Michigan, an almost century-old fellowship program for Asian women established by Levi Barbour, then a regent of the University. For both of Jiu-Hwa’s parents, education was the touchstone of their lives and a value they instilled in their daughter. But education wasn’t taken for granted—in fact, as Jiu-Hwa points out, “it’s my parents who struggled.”

Jiu-Hwa’s mother, Wei-Djen Djang Lo, attended the Shanghai Baptist College, where she was in an early class of female students admitted to the school. The instruction was taught in English by American missionaries, so when she graduated Wei-Djen was sufficiently prepared to study in the U.S. In 1926, Wei-Djen received a Barbour Scholarship to attend U-M. The funding was critical because there were very limited opportunities for women from China to study abroad, and to afford it. In 1926-1927, Jiu-Hwa’s mother earned a Master’s in Political Science from Michigan. Upon her return to China, she played a role in the groves of academe pursuing a lengthy career in education and government.

Jiu-Hwa mentions the significant challenge that language presented for many students from her parents’ generation and how rare her mother’s experience was. Her father, Chia-Lun Lo, majored in foreign languages and literature as an undergraduate at the National Peking University, and when he finished, he won a scholarship that allowed him to chart his own academic program in graduate schools abroad. She explains, “He never completed a graduate degree, but he spent six years traveling from school to school. He spent a year each at Columbia, Princeton, the Universities of London, of Paris, and Berlin, where he studied with their most renowned faculty and gleaned the best each had to offer. To help further his scholarship grant, he also wrote articles for newspapers as he went.”

A prolific writer, calligrapher and collector of classical Chinese paintings, Chia-Lun Lo dedicated his life to education and public service. Lo joined the National Government in 1927 as deputy director of studies for the newly established Central Party Affairs Institute (now the National Cheng-Chi University) and became president of National Tsinghua University from 1928-1930 and National Central University from 1932-1941. He represented educators in the initial sessions of the National Assembly and served as the Chinese ambassador to India from 1947-1949. He played such an integral role in reforming education in Taiwan that today students learn about his accomplishments in their curriculum.

Jiu-Hwa’s parents met in China as student activists at a national rally in 1919 protesting the Treaty of Versailles; her father was one of the student leaders and her mother was selected as a female delegate from her school. Jiu-Hwa reflects on the exceptional people she was surrounded with as a result of her parents’ education and the path they made possible for her. “There were professional women, and growing up I met a lot of men and women in powerful roles. Pursuing education was not much of a stretch for me.”

Jiu-Hwa herself enjoyed a truly global education. She was born in China but spent her childhood and adolescence with her parents first in India then in Australia, where she attended the University of Sydney for her bachelor’s degree. When she came to U-M for graduate school, she lived in Martha Cook, a mostly undergraduate, all women’s residence hall, and loved it. “I was just across from the library and classes, and at that time the dorm admitted several international graduate students, and another one of them was also a Barbour Scholar.” Jiu-Hwa studied history and anthropology and, in addition to the Barbour Scholarship, earned a Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship as well. She completed her Ph.D. in 1972. “I was a teaching fellow for one year and became a part-time lecturer at Eastern Michigan University after that. Once I finished my dissertation, they hired me on a full-time, tenure-track basis.” She spent a long and fruitful career at EMU, teaching and inspiring decades of students.

In retirement, Jiu-Hwa has had a chance to reflect on not only her own achievements, but those of her parents as well. On a recent trip to Taipei, Jiu-Hwa was the guest of honor when National Cheng-Chi University dedicated a new facility housing her father’s 13,000-volume book collection. The travels of this collection are a story out of an action movie. To escape the coming Japanese invasion during World War II, Chia-Lun loaded his vast collection, many of them masterpieces dating back to the 17th century, into 24 lead-lined trunks. Over the course of many years, they were evacuated for safe-keeping up the Yangtze River, back to Nanjing, then eventually to Taiwan and on to Australia. They stayed in storage in Australia and the U.S. for decades. Miraculously, the collection remained intact and just a few years ago was donated to National Cheng-Chi—a fitting memorial to Chia-Lun Lo’s memory and to the impact he has had on the cultural and educational life of the people of Taiwan.

Jiu-Hwa’s own Michigan legacy has been extending its reach considerably in recent years.

In 2011 she established the Chia-Lun Lo Fund at Rackham to support at least four graduate students every year. She has a close relationship with Rackham and each year meets the students funded by her gift. She has in addition established scholarship programs in both National Central and National Cheng-Chi Universities of Taiwan in her father’s name, for both undergraduate and graduate students. “Perhaps some of the recipients will continue their studies and earn their highest degrees at the University of Michigan.” She continues, “I wanted to do this for my parents. There will never be enough money for scholarships, and I’m so grateful for this education.” Jiu-Hwa also enjoys meeting the new cohort of Barbour Scholars each March. She encourages all the students she meets to make the most of their time at Michigan and to experience everything the University and Ann Arbor have to offer.

Jiu-Hwa still enjoys traveling and pursuing new intellectual interests. She is in a reading group focused on American history and volunteers with Elderwise and the Chelsea Senior Center. While she does leave town to travel, she remarks, “There are wonderful things in Ann Arbor: the world comes to you.” And for this global alum, that is saying a lot!